Emily Marie (Avila) Bunch was born July 19, 1929 in Hughson, California to Manuel and Adriana Avila, Portuguese immigrants from the Azorean Island of Sao Jorge. During her younger years, Emily attended Lowell and Hughson Schools. Emily grew up on her parents’ ranch located on the corner of Walnut and Grayson Roads in Hughson, California. There, her family raised dairy cows, which produced milk that was sold to the creamery in Hughson, as well as a variety of crops such as melons, sweet potatoes, and grapes. While living at home, Emily proudly helped her parents with various chores such as cooking, doing laundry, cleaning dairy stalls, and working in the fields. She also enjoyed babysitting her many nieces and nephews, as she loved children. Starting at around the age of ten, Emily spent her summers working in the cutting sheds for George Larmer in Hughson, slicing peaches and apricots with her mother and sisters. Later, as a teenager and into her twenties, Emily worked for Flow Till, a cannery in Modesto, working on the sorting lines for peaches, apricots, tomatoes, and various other fruits. It is this upbringing that likely inspired her most popular teaching to her children and grandchildren, “Little hands can do a lot!” From an early age, Emily was a hard worker and she loved to work, because she was able to make extra money so she could buy new materials to make new clothes to wear to school and church. As a talented seamstress, Emily has always loved creating and designing fashionable outfits. Her passion for sewing later inspired her to become the Hughson 4-H Sewing Leader for about 5 years, where she taught her daughter, Angela and many other young women in the community how to sew.
On February 18, 1950, Emily married her husband, Troy Bunch Sr., who she met when her parents moved to Modesto and bought a home built by Troy and his parents. Troy lived next door, and Emily soon caught his eye with her beautiful style, generous heart, and tireless work ethic. Emily, too, thought Troy was handsome, well educated, hardworking, and adventurous. Shortly after marriage, Troy and Emily moved to Dell City, Texas to pursue a farming venture with Troy’s family. While in Texas, Troy and Emily lived in a modest adobe home they built and farmed cotton, watermelons, corn, string beans and various other crops. In this home they were blessed with their first child, Troy Bunch Jr. in 1951.
After four years of hard work farming in Texas, Troy and Emily saved up enough money to buy a new Packard car and came back to Stanislaus County to be closer to Emily’s family. From 1954 to 1963, Troy and Emily settled in Patterson, California living in a home owned by Al Bevis, whom Troy worked for as a foreman. While in Patterson, Troy and Emily welcomed four more children into their family; Andrea in 1954, Lloyd in 1958, Gerald in 1960, and Angela in 1961. For Emily, life in Patterson was a time filled with many heartfelt memories of spending time with friends and hosting family parties, as well as overcoming the tragic loss of her daughter Andrea at the age of three. It was these early years of success and struggle that really solidified and strengthened Troy and Emily’s marriage. Their love, devotion and faith that poured out of their marriage was an inspiration to all who knew them.
In 1963, Troy and Emily moved back to Hughson and bought a ranch on Walnut Road. There they farmed 80 acres under the family business, Bunch Farms. Together, they grew almonds and a variety of produce, such as melons, sweet corn, onions, tomatoes, and squash, selling them to local grocery stores and at farmers markets as well. Over the years, Bunch Farms became a place where Troy and Emily could instill in their children and grandchildren the value of hard work, family values and perseverance. During her years of raising children in their home, Troy and Emily’s home often became an open house to friends and neighbors who could come share in the humble and heartfelt hospitality Emily showered upon everyone. Emily was always known for having a hot meal ready for anyone who came over and no one ever left her home with an empty stomach. Once Emily became a grandmother, she was actively involved in her grandchildren’s lives as well. Emily soon became known to many as “Va Va”, a Portuguese name for grandmother, as she loved children and became the adoptive grandmother to many in the community.
Despite the busy endless work of farming, Emily always made it a priority to be active in her community and church. As a devout member of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, she led the parish sewing group, served on festival committees, coordinated funeral luncheons through Matthew Ministries, was a member of the parish prayer chain and Young Ladies Institute. Emily was also very active in the Hughson community serving as a room mother in her children’s classrooms, a 4-H sewing leader, a founding member of the Hughson Clothes Closet, and a long-standing committee member of the Hughson Community Christmas Baskets. Emily possessed a servant’s heart and always demonstrated the true sacrificial love for those around her. Emily was a woman admired by many and beloved by her family, church, and community.
Surrounded by her family, Emily passed from her earthly life on November 16, 2022 at the age of 93, in Modesto, CA. She is preceded in death by her daughter Andrea Bunch, husband of 53 years Troy Bunch Sr., parents Manuel and Adriana Avila, all her siblings, Manuel Avila, Mary (Avila) Peabody, Theresa (Avila) Correia, Madeline (Avila) Bettincourt, Louis Avila, Bellmeda (Avila) Bettincourt, Rose (Avila) Bettencourt, John Avila, Nellie (Avila) Presson and three great grandchildren. Emily is survived by her children Troy Bunch Jr. (Susan), Lloyd Bunch (Christina), Gerald Bunch (Carmen), Angela (Bunch) Fisher (Tim), 19 grandchildren, and 30 great-grandchildren.
On Monday, November 28, 2022, there will be a viewing starting at 5:00PM at Allen Mortuary, 247 N. Broadway, Turlock, California, followed by a Rosary at 7:00PM. On Tuesday, November 29, 2022, at 10:00AM, a funeral mass will be held at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, 7820 Fox Road, Hughson, California, followed by her burial at Turlock Memorial Park, 575 N. Soderquist Road, Turlock, California, with a reception to follow in the Hughes Hall at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Hughson.